Archive for April 1, 2012

North Carolina Preview

April 1, 2012 Leave a comment

North Carolina State Capitol

Six weeks ago, I described a day trip we might take when visiting Joel in Chapel Hill this month. We would drive 50 miles west to Greensboro to visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, which opened two years ago on the site of the Woolworth’s where four college students began their 1960 lunch counter sit-in. And along the way, we would stop at the Saxapahaw General Store, featured in the NYT Sunday travel section in January, for a meal. That’s still the plan. The civil rights museum provides hour-long guided tours and we have made our reservations.

That leaves two more days to plan, not counting our arrival and departure days. Here’s what I’m thinking (though Gail has yet to weigh in). We’ll go down to Raleigh one day, hang out in Durham and Chapel Hill the other, and see still more museums.

Raleigh has three state museums, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of History, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. I can’t imagine going to all three. The good news is, we can’t. The natural sciences museum will be closed for two weeks in preparation for the opening of a new wing. This is bad news too, of course. It would have been fun to see the wing. But it simplifies our decision.

What most interests me at the history museum is an exhibit called The Story of North Carolina:

More than 14,000 years of the state’s history unfold through fascinating artifacts, multimedia presentations, dioramas, and hands-on interactive components. Additionally, two full-size historic houses and several re-created environments immerse museum visitors in places where North Carolinians have lived and worked.


Highlights in the first part of The Story of North Carolina include American Indian life, European settlement, piracy, the American Revolution and early 1800s farm life. The exhibit continues through the antebellum era, the Civil War, the rise of industry, the Great Depression, the two World Wars, and the Civil Rights movement.

The art museum has a park that is “home to more than a dozen monumental works of art, with artists actively involved in the restoration of the Park’s landscape and the integration of art into its natural systems.” One is pictured below.

Gyre, Thomas Sayre, 1999

The museum also has a notable collection of Judaica, such as the Torah finials below from the treasury of the Great Synagogue of Amsterdam.

Torah finials, circa 1765, attributed to Willem Hendrik Rosier, Dutch, Amsterdam, 1707-1775. Medium: Silver and brass; cast, repoussé, chased, partly gilded.

We could also try to fit in a tour of the State Capitol, completed in 1840 and pictured at the top.

On the day we go to Durham, we can visit the Duke Homestead State Historic Site.

At Duke Homestead, visitors can tour the early home, factories, and farm where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. Duke’s sons later founded The American Tobacco Company, the largest tobacco company in the world. The Dukes became one of the wealthiest families in the country at the turn of the 20th century and now lend their name to Duke University, Duke Energy, and the Duke Endowment.

Duke Homestead offers an orientation film twice an hour, an extensive tobacco museum, and guided tours of the surviving historical structures on the grounds. Among these structures are early Bright Leaf tobacco barns, Washington Duke’s first and third factories, and his 1852 homestead.

And on the Duke campus, there’s The Nasher Museum of Art, which “opened in 2005 with a building designed by Rafael Viñoly as the center for the visual arts on campus.” We’re talking Nasher as in Ray and Patsy Nasher of Dallas, the Nashers of downtown Dallas’s Nasher Sculpture Center , and of the NorthPark Center mall, which displays more art from the Nasher collection. (I wrote about our visit to the Nasher Sculpture Center two years ago.)

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

We may not have time to do all this. After all, we also want to enjoy the local restaurant offerings, walk around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill to get a sense of what they’re like, and drive around as well. We’ll have to return soon.